Being Present Where Your Feet Are

May 02, 2022

April is Stress Awareness Month. These days stress awareness may be more important to understand and recognize than any other time in recent history. Our world is recovering from the turmoil and trauma the pandemic left, as well as the normal stress of family, work and life that seems to be ever present. Learning to help cope with stress using practices that can be incorporated into daily routines is what mindfulness is all about. The teams at Toyota are using Mindfulness@Toyota to learn how they can relieve stress in a healthy way. With 83% of US workers suffering from work related stress* there’s no better time to learn more about the benefits of mindfulness.

The basic concept of mindfulness is brain training. Training to have focused awareness in the current moment, boosting resiliency and being present where your feet are. Christine Wenger, National Manager Corp Strategy for Toyota Financial Services, created Mindfulness@Toyota as a pilot program with 100 participants. It took off quickly growing 700% in four years. “We had a waitlist almost instantly,” Wenger stated. “The pandemic really set us up with everyone just trying to stay afloat. Going virtual also helped us reach more people than our in-person events would allow.”

Richlynn Bailey, Change Management Consultant for Toyota Financial Services, first discovered Mindfulness@Toyota when she attended an event that was standing room only. “That is when I wanted to learn more,” Bailey shared. “When I transitioned to working at home during the pandemic with my family at home, mindfulness helped me to stay focused.”

So how is mindfulness practiced? First, be open and curious to hear the message. This is a strategic and learned skill. “We also like to tell people about the 1-minute to arrive challenge. This is a 1-minute commitment that is practiced before walking into a meeting, starting an activity, or even just having a conversation,” Wenger said. 1-minute to arrive could be made up of breathing exercises, meditation or listening to water sounds. Bailey added, “There is no perfect way to do this, it should not be a chore and shouldn’t be complicated.”

Another practice Wenger uses is the word “huh.” This is her cue to pause when speaking to give herself a moment to think about the next words that she will say. Pause and then return to the moment. Another tip Wenger shared was to connect mindfulness practices to another routine. Connect it to drinking coffee, walking the dog, driving to or from work. Practicing mindfulness 1-5 minutes a day is a healthy goal. “Be consistent in short bursts,” Wenger added.

For Toyota team members, getting started is simple. They can begin by utilizing the Mindfulness@Toyota app which is available as a health benefit for employees and their dependents. For non-Toyota team members wanting to learn more, check with your health insurance carrier to see if they provide a similar program. Even a simple search online brings up many resources

Today at Toyota there are over 100 weekly mindful meetups for team member to practice together. During a survey, 96% found mindfulness practices helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic and while working remotely, and 20% of participants found an increase in resiliency when practicing mindfulness. This science backed program not only makes participants feel better mentally, but participants have found that others notice they feel better. “One of our participants noticed that after practicing mindfulness colleagues began to ask for his opinion more often. Something that he had not been asked for much before,” Wenger shared. “We have been told many times that someone’s team has noticed a difference in them but can’t put their finger on what it is. We hear feedback consistently where someone’s team member tells them, I’m not sure what you are doing but keep doing it,” Wenger continued.

Increasing public awareness about the modern stress epidemic and encouraging healthy habits to cope with that stress is why April has been designated Stress Awareness Month since 1992. It is a reminder to pay attention to our mental health and focus on how we approach tension and anxiety in our daily lives. Engage with mindfulness this April. Take 1-minute to arrive and begin being present where your feet are.

*The American Institute of Stress